Oh the times that I have allowed a thought to transition from transmissions in the brain to spoken word, and as soon as the syllables were out of my mouth, I would have paid a lot of money to have the ability to pull them back in, unheard by the listener.
That has happened to me at least once (OK, too many times) in my marriage.
I recall a recent situation, where we were discussing one of our kids and some growth we were desiring to see. As our conversion progressed, I started using the “maybe we then shouldn’t…” when what I really meant was “maybe you then shouldn’t…” and to get my point across I blurted out an example.
The problem was that I used my words like ammunition to make my point sting, and in addition, it was the absolute wrong timing because I turned the conversation in an unloving way.
When I said my words, I immediately knew I crossed a line and did it with a wrong spirit. Ugh – I really felt the pain of that one, and not because of my wife coming back at me, but because of the Holy Spirit doing His work inside of me.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have focused my posts on a couple of aspects of being a husband that has the look and feel of Jesus. Last week I gave some thoughts about the bigger picture of what marriage truly represents. And it is one ginormous picture and we as guys must model our role well or we are in danger of really skewing the gospel in the mind of our wife.
The blind spots
As a husband and wife, we have learned over the years that it is critical that we are infusing truth into each other and helping each other grow in the gospel. And there are times when we must step into each other’s lives and make some observations about the other. And the observations made must be in grace, love, and humility.
Always. Every time. Without exception.
Over the next couple of days following the incident that I described above, we were able to talk things through and unpack what happened in our bedroom that night. We did end up talking through some of my own observations, but it was only after I had some confession and repentance over how I had handled the conversation in the first place.
When personal agenda becomes the filter through which you view your wife and invest into her, note that it pales in comparison to Jesus really loving His church.
My wife, full of grace, forgave me, but it was a tough lesson – one that I hope the sting of remains with me for a long time. I do not want to do that again.
A husband and a wife, if they are going to experience true intimacy in marriage, have to learn how to confront each other in a way that has the aroma of love, humility, grace, and truth. And this demands transparency, which I am going to blog on in an upcoming post.
There is a book that I have been using for pre-marital counseling titled When Sinners Say “I Do” – by Dave Harvey. Insightful book and one that would greatly benefit any couple.
And in chapter seven, there is a thought-provoking statement that the author makes that should make you ponder. Guys, heed this:
Marriages grow sour when spouses engage in surgery casually, carelessly, or without the informed consent of the patient. But marriage becomes sweet when spouses, recognizing that each one will probably need corrective surgery from time to time, give one another permission to wield the scalpel as needed. (p. 123)
This is a mutual process, from husband to wife and wife to husband. But I am going to focus on us guys because there are many times that we do not live with our wives in an understanding manner, as I Peter 3:7 exhorts us.
Wielding the scalpel – in love and grace
With two broken people in a marriage, brokenness is going to manifest itself. And sometimes we are going to need to jump in and help push to gospel thinking and actions. Dave Harvey calls it “wielding the scalpel.”
And this wielding of the scalpel tends to fall in one of two extremes with us as guys – we are either passive and never want to pull it out because we hate conflict, or we are harsh and use the scalpel as a weapon.
Both are damaging to our wives, guys, and the sooner we figure this out, the sooner we can love our wives like Jesus loved His church.
I know some of you are cringing right now in fear because you have absolutely no clue how to approach your wife when truth is necessary to be spoken. You are paralyzed.
Welcome to the club. Please do not think I have mastered this or have been doing it correctly for years in our marriage. Because the story I shared at the beginning of this post is one of many stories of how I presented truth in the wrong way. I misused the scalpel. But I really want to grow in this area and so I want to share some practical truth with you.
The humble heart
Before we start, guys, let me tell you this: you had better be in the right type of spirit and recognize yourself as the “chief of sinners” and not the one pointing the finger. Dave Harvey has a great insight on this:
Self-examination alone cannot produce a sweet marriage, but only self-examination can provide the humble clarity of sight I need to serve my spouse. My own logging efforts position me for speck removal. (p. 119)
Read that again. Did you get the main point?
Humble clarity. Serve my spouse. That is what this is all about. Anything more than that and you just need to get on your knees and pray through this until God changes your view.
The pre-op questions
So if God pursues sinners, and if God uses sinners to pursue sinners, how do we as husbands ensure it is done in a way that leads to reconciliation and not destruction?
Here are some super practical pre-op questions from Harvey’s book for you to work through as a husband:
- Have I prayed for God’s wisdom and acknowledge my need for His help in serving my spouse?
Recognize we are dependent, guys, and quit acting like we know it all.
- Are my observations based upon patterns of behavior or merely a single incident?
I have fallen into this at times – I see one incident happen with my wife and my thoughts soon allow it to become a habit of life for her. Not profitable.
- Am I content to address one area of concern, even if I’m aware of several?
Change in our lives is not efficient. It takes time. This is not the time for “since I am removing your appendix, lets go ahead and do foot surgery as well!” Bad idea. Life happens, jobs still go on, kids still need attention, and growth does not happen overnight. The humble and loving husband remembers this.
- Am I committed to making incisions no larger than absolutely necessary?
Be careful that you do not overwhelm your spouse with a litany of examples just to “make your point.” In my opening example, that is what I did, and instead of moving my wife to truth, it propelled her into condemnation.
- Am I prepared to humbly offer an observation rather than an assumption or conclusion?
Observations leave room for discussion – accusations do not. A great tool for conversations of this sort is OIC. To cast judgment is to declare that we as husbands have perfect insight into the heart of our wife. I am not sure where I heard this, but it is true: questions stir the conscience; accusations stir the will.
Leave room that you may not have all of the information or see the situation with perfect clarity.
- Is my goal to promote God’s truth or my preference?
Ouch – not a whole lot needs to be said here. We need to check our heart, guys, because truth discussions are very different from preference discussions.
Our observations should be designed to lead to God’s truth, not replace it.” (p. 126)
There is more that could be said on this topic, but what I have noted is sufficient to reflect upon. Men, our wives need them to speak truth into their lives, as we need them to speak truth into our lives, but if we are not gentle, we are going to crush them. Proverbs 15:4 says,
A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
Loving our wives enough to speak truth into their lives and help them change is not an easy thing and it probably is not your default – it is not mine. But it is necessary if we are going to be the type of husband that looks more like Jesus than more like us.
It might be time to have a tough conversation with your wife and ask her how you are doing in these areas. And then be willing to listen.
It’s time to man-up, guys. And despite the urge to defend yourself, note in Isaiah 66:2 the kind of person of which God takes special note:
But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.
Let’s be the type of husband that our wives need and not the type we just think they need.
Look like Jesus. Pursue your bride. Help her to progress in her sanctification. She needs you and you need her.
I’d love to hear from you — please leave a reply below if you have any thoughts to add to the conversation.
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